WASHINGTON — The man who fired an AR-15 assault inside D.C.’s Comet Ping Pong restaurant last December as he looked into the internet conspiracy theory known as “pizzagate” was sentenced Thursday to four years in federal prison.
Prosecutors had sought a 4 and 1/2 year prison sentence for 28-year-old Edgar Maddison Welch on a federal charge of interstate transportation of a firearm and ammunition as well as a D.C. charge of assault with a dangerous weapon. Welch pleaded guilty to both charges in March as part of a plea deal.
Welch, who sparked panic inside Comet when he entered the restaurant Dec. 4 with the assault rifle strapped to his chest, fired a single shot into a locked cabinet. After watching hours of YouTube videos about the bogus conspiracy theory, Welch said he was convinced the Connecticut Avenue restaurant was harboring child sex slaves and drove to D.C. from North Carolina, according to court documents.
No one was injured in the incident and Welch surrendered to police peacefully.
Welch’s lawyer asked federal court Judge Ketanji B. Jackson for an 18-month sentence, noting that the father of two had admitted responsibility and “expressed sincere remorse.”
In a handwritten letter of apology filed with the court June 13, Welch said he never intended to “harm or frighten innocent lives,” and that he now realizes “just how foolish and reckless” his actions were.
Prosecutors argued Welch had terrorized the community and that a strong sentence would deter other would-be vigilantes fueled by online conspiracies.
Comet employees reported being traumatized by the incident. The family restaurant was forced to hire a security guard and some employees said they had sought counseling. In victim impact statements read in court Thursday, the employees expressed more sympathy toward Welch than anger.
Comet owner James Alefantis said he hopes “in a more truthful world,” the incident will be thought of as an “aberration.”
WTOP’s Neal Augenstein contributed to this report.
The post Comet Ping Pong gunman Edgar Welch sentenced to 4 years appeared first on WTOP.